Pearl Dairies plans to employ about 4,000 people along the value chain in its honey processing project as it nears commissioning of the factory located in Mbarara.
Mr Michael Van den Berg, head of dairy and apiculture development, Pearl Dairies, said the honey processing factory is 90 per cent complete.
“The factory is 90 per cent completed. The final equipment that we imported from Italy arrived a few days ago. So we are very close to having the factory commissioned. We expect to commission it either by the end of March or beginning of April,” he said without revealing the investment amount injected into the factory development.
Pearl Dairies will have two production lines with one dedicated to organic honey primarily for export to Europe and another non-organic for the local market due to price variations.
He said Uganda has a 5,000 tonne export licence of honey to Europe that is still unutilised.
Europe is the largest global consumer of honey, being responsible for more than 20 per cent of the total global consumption.
China, the United States of America and Turkey are the other major global honey consumers while China, Turkey and Iran among others are the biggest honey producers globally.
The factory which is envisaged to produce 20 tonnes of honey per day is only expected to employ 10 people as Pearl Dairies says it is fully automated.
However, Mr Van de berg said, 4,000 jobs will be created along the value chain including the farmers, 70 per cent of whom will be women and sales executives for the product once it hits the market.
The milk processor took the initiative to provide a total of 1,000 modern hives to about 200 farmers in its first phase of the pilot honey production through a revenue sharing model.
From one hive, he said, a farmer can earn Shs166,000 per year.
According to Mr Ernest Simeoni, the consultant and managing director African Beekeepers Limited in Kenya, they expect about 30 to 40 tonnes of honey annually from the 1,000 hives.
Mbarara, he noted, has conducive weather and natural vegetation for honey production. However, Mr Van de berg says the milk processor will consider expanding to other regions beyond Mbarara.
Pearl Dairy has also not been able to re-enter the Rwandan market which has for over two years closed its borders to Ugandan products including Lato milk. Kenya has added Ugandan maize to the list of products banned from entering the country.
Pearl Dairies first made the announcement to diversify into honey last year, saying the product will be an additional revenue stream as demand for milk dropped after Kenya blocked milk from Uganda.
Kenya in February locked out milk products from Pearl Dairy on claims that the company was re-exporting and dumping “cheap milk” on its market.